Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
- 1 Thessalonians 5 (NRSV)
I was talking with a friend yesterday who’s been having a hard time in life. She said, “I’m not making any long-term plans right now; I’m just living from one moment to the next.”
I replied, “Well, I guess you’re living life the way it really is, then! We like to fool ourselves into thinking we can make long-term plans, but what do we know?” As the words left my mouth, I worried they may have been tactless. To my surprise, though, my friend said she took great comfort in them and would keep remembering them from day to day.
Life really is like that. It’s not bad to make long-term plans—in fact, it’s a great idea—as long as we realize that plans must change. We need to stay awake to the possibilities that sudden, surprising change offers. Anthony de Mello wrote: “Change that is real is change that is not willed.” Any other change, then, is change we create, that we have control over. Since it comes only from ourselves, it cannot hold as many possibilities as the kind of change that is forced upon us.
this encouragement to stay awake. Of course, it’s ironic—it’s meant to lull us to sleep, and that’s the fun of it.
So I got to thinking: in an ironic twist on irony, what if we sucked all the irony out of that song and gave it more of an Advent flavor? It would need to sound not only straightforward, but even a little creepy—uncomfortable—not the kind of staying awake we would prefer to do. But it’s Mary Poppins, right? So even if we don’t want to stay awake, she must really mean it, and it must be really be good for us.
Here’s my take (in mp3 form; right-click to download) of Mary Poppins really urging us to stay awake for Advent, with some musical help from Sufjan Stevens.